“Why haven’t you invited me to church?” she asked, looking me straight in the eyes.
I wasn’t sure what caught me more off guard: the fact she’d been so straightforward in her inquiry or the fact that this was actually the second time in a month someone asked me this exact question. Searching my head for answers, I did my best to explain why I hadn’t been so forthcoming in our interactions. Something about post-modern, post-Christian culture and asking nonbelievers to attend your church being a greater threshold for them to cross. I’m sure it sounded very educated if not convincing. But if I’m honest my lack of invitation had nothing to do with “mission” or “effective evangelism.” The real reason I hadn’t invited her to my church was because I lacked, and still lack, faith.
We’ve all heard stories of people bringing their friends to church for the first time only to have it completely backfire or, just as bad, leaves them completely unchanged therefore increasing their skepticism. I was afraid that if I invited them to church, God would not meet them there. I doubted my church, God’s ability to use it, and God in general.
As I try to figure out where my own skepticism comes from, my mind goes blank. God has been nothing but good to me. Yet somewhere deep down in the recesses of my soul I’m still waiting on that one moment God fails me. More than questioning his ability to act in certain situations, I doubt whether or not he will.
But when we look at the miracles of Jesus, we’re hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t involve the faith of the recipient to some extent. They believe Jesus can do something and he does it. In fact, there’s a time in which Jesus doesn’t do any miracles because of the lack of faith around him. Maybe the reason I don’t see God at work in my life is because I don’t believe he is. In my doubt, I remain stagnant and refuse God the opportunity to prove me wrong.
Some people have the spiritual gift of faith. I am not one of those people and that’s okay. What’s not okay is that Jesus calls us to have faith the size of a mustard seed (something so small it’s almost embarrassing) and I don’t even have that.
I don’t know how to get more or stronger faith. I suppose prayer plays a part but perhaps in the same way we reassure children that a ride is just a ride or a movie is just a movie, maybe the foundation of our faith are the facts: God is good and he loves us. More importantly, he loves displaying His glory and he does not fail. Of course, in the throes of a roller-coaster it’s hard to remember it’s just a ride and in the moment, it’s hard to remember that God is God. Fortunately for us truth is not contingent on how we feel.
I want to be a man who believes God at his word and has the utmost confidence that God can do the miraculous, that he not only loves me but also loves his glory and will move on both his and my behalf to see his purposes brought forth. But at this moment I resonate more with the man in Mark 9 than anything else. I believe, help my unbelief.